In previous emails it was suggested that the various Education Reform activists concentrate their attention on specific issues they believe need to be addressed and are best suited to do so. This was suggested to best maximize our collective capacity to influence RCSD to listen to voices of the community, and be transparent/accountable to the community.
Two Saturdays ago, Superintendent Lesli Meyer-Smalls had a public forum at Franklin High school that was billed to find solutions to ongoing problems, but ultimately resulted in a talkfest, no solutions, no timetable for any solutions, and folks returned to their silos. As some stated during the public forum, including me, that if RCSD had fully implemented what NYS Dep't of Education had introduced 5 years ago, the Culturally-Responsive Sustaining Education Framework (Framework), the greater probability RCSD would not be in the mess they are in today.
The same is true, as Mary Adams proclaimed of the full implementation of training teachers in the Code of Conduct, again, another failure on the part of Meyer-Smalls to insist that teachers and staff apply the Code of Conduct. The failure of these two specific programs has aggravated the school climate creating conditions for RPD's presence surveilling students. Not Good!!! It has been proposed by members of AQE the need for a statewide conference toward a "police free school" policy and what they would look like going forward. The constant and growing police surveillance of our students and community has an ominous familiarity of police repression that must be rejected at all cost. The Black, Brown, and Indigenous community are all so familiar with the harsh reality of being policed, there is absolutely no reason why, in this instance, we should give into such a practice when there are other options available to keep RCSD staff and students safe if RCSD would fully implement them (Framework, Code of Conduct, Restorative Practice). This must be the demand of the Education Reform activist community!!!
Unfortunately, RTA, specifically, Urbanski, seems to be out-of-step with the needs of both students and the community, where their self-interest seems to "trump" the needs of the community. How should this be addressed?
To ensure we all are on the same page, I would like to invite the Education Reform activists community engaged in Restorative Practice to join us on Nov. 18th, at 4:00 PM, 540 West Main Street, to a meeting with RCSD Exec. Dir. Elizabeth Reyes. Ms. Reyes is tasked with implementing Restorative Practice and it is incumbent on us to ensure she fully understands Restorative Practitioners' capacity to improve the climate of RCSD. It would also be advantageous to discuss how the Code of Conduct should be made part of the Restorative Practice application.
I would also like to report that discussion is underway to create a program with U of R to track RCSD graduates into a U of R teachers program. A similar program existed years ago that permitted at least one current member of RCSD Exec.team to become a teacher and rise up the ranks. That program needs to be reinstated to offer some RCSD students a career path that is consistent with the need of RCSD to correct the degree of inequity of diversity in the District.
Lastly, during the school budget hearings, young people complained the food being served was and is horrible. They demanded better, more nutritional meals and a greater variety. An effort is being made to locate Food Service vendors in Rochester who are able to provide exactly what our students demanded. We have located one Food Service vendor that claims to have the capacity to provide these meals, and it has been suggested they prepare and submit a proposal on their capacity to do so. Once that proposal is obtained it will be shared with the Education Reform activist students and community to decide whether we, collectively, will support this (or any other) vendor.
Again, I am making this report - taking the lead to find ways to break down the silos folks have been operating in, exacerbated by COVID, that diminishes our collective voices and weakens our capacity to challenge RCSD and WIN! The state and federal aid money appropriated and received gives RCSD no excuse to not fully implement the Framework, Code of Conduct and Restorative Practice. And, we, collectively, must ensure Lesli Meyer-Smalls and RCSD is transparent and held accountable by the community it serves.
Jalil Muntaqim, Community Organizer
Citizen Action of New York, Rochester Chapter