Rochester City School Board President Van White has decided to run for Monroe County Judge. The leader of a failing school district with a multi-million dollar deficit believes he is qualified and the Black community should support him for the position. The conversation went down during a meeting with the Take It Down Planning Committee; Faith Alliance Coalition.
According to RCSDK12.org, Attorney Van Henri White has been a member of the Rochester School Board since 2007. Since that time, the Rochester City School District has been unable to secure a long-term superintendent, massive layoffs, and at least a $117 million-dollar deficit. A report published by Democrat and Chronicle states students in the Rochester City School District will be eating cereal for breakfast and cold sandwiches for lunch for the foreseeable future, the result of low in-person enrollment and a tight budget. The immediate reason is that there are not enough trained cook managers to oversee a full kitchen operation in the buildings. Most of those employees faced layoffs or steep hours reductions in the fall, and many are no longer available to return now that schools are open again, said Dan DiClemente President of the non-educators union BENTE.
In 2019, board member Beatriz LeBron demanded White resign after the discovery of the financial woes. She released the following statement, "We need the district’s internal and external auditors to complete their work. We need to understand what has happened. Second, all responsible parties for this shortfall must resign. Van White should also resign as President and Commissioner Powell as chair of finance, as they have proven they cannot provide proper oversight. Our job as school board members is to make sure superintendents are doing their jobs – and that includes staying in the black."
Does White's inability to make the best decisions for our children automatically disqualify him for making the best decisions on our freedom? Unfortunately, some in the community may think so.
Van White was invited to the Take It Down Planning Committee; Faith Alliance Coalition meeting by Minister Clifford Florence and Howard Eagle to discuss the Rochester City School Board. However, things went left after a question about his current campaign for Monroe County Judge. Van implied that as a Black man, the Black community should support him on his election as Monroe County Judge. When asked, what has he done for Black men to gain their support, besides making a profit off of them, White became visibly annoyed and stated, "I don't make any money" Yet, earlier in the meeting, White discussed purchasing a building and a bus off of racism.
We reached out to several Black men to get their thoughts on supporting Van White for Monroe County Judge here is what several had to say:
Anthony Hall, former Dean at Vertus Charter School for young men, former Youth Intervention Gang Specialist for the City of Rochester, Founder of B.O.O.K.B.A.G.S Express an organization aimed at addressing disparities in this community, former candidate for school board Commissioner, and single father of three children stated, "I have been a community servant for over a decade. Through advocating organizing and activism work, Van Henri White is a career politician and holds one of the most powerful seats in this county, School Board President. The Rochester city school in itself is powerful with a 1.8 billion dollar budget. Mr. White has served on the board since 2007 and has been board president since 2013. Why is this one of the most powerful seats? Because the investment into OUR education is more powerful than any money or title. Mr. White has done very little in his tenure to chip away at racist practices that impact the way we educate our children and the way we attract minority teachers. Mr. White, claim to fame is East High School and getting the graduation rate up to 63%. However, a district that once served over 40 thousand students and now only 26 thousand should be producing no less than a 90% graduation rate. In 2019, the Rochester City School District was ranked the 3rd worst school district in upstate New York and 2017 was ranked the 8th worst in New York State. Two of the biggest hurdles in the Rochester school district are racism and school to prison pipeline. Mr. White has said virtually nothing or puts forth any plans to eliminate these elements. This district serves the Black and Brown community and some of the worst and concentrated impoverished neighborhoods in the nation and has not used his platform to address these disparities. For him to say 'Black men should support him for judge' is rhetoric. He has done nothing or should I say very little to advance the Black and Brown struggle in education. He continuously plays politics with our children. I know he is making a run for Monroe County Judge and although this is a noble act, I don’t believe he will cut the cheese. He is in my opinion a shoo-in. Someone who will continue to toe the line and not bring forth true systemic change through the bench. Enclosing, I will continue to reiterate this, our ancestors' greatest dreams were to get people of color, particularly Black folks in elected and appointed roles to effectuate change through policy, procedures, codes, ordinances, laws, and legislation. Ask yourself, has Mr. White done any of the latter?"
Howard Eagle who is an Activist and Educator stated, "It's actually wonderful news that Van White, who has been a member of the Rochester Board of Education for 14 years and has been President of the Board for half of those years, has finally decided to move on. It's too bad that the person who has served as Vice President for years and has been on the Board for 15 years, Cynthia Elliott, didn't join him, along with Willa Powell, who has been a fixture on the failed Board for over 20 years. Even though Van White waxes eloquent about the so-called "progress" that has been made over the past decade and a half that he and Cynthia Elliot have been Board members, the truth of the matter is that the Rochester City School District still remains (solidly) the worst-performing school district in all of New York State, and one of the worst-performing in the entire nation, which at the same time has the highest-paid school board in the entire State of New York, and one of the highest-paid in the entire nation. Yet, recently, its members refused to agree to a pay cut. It's scandalous; it's criminal. Only in modern-day-slave-town U.S.A. would citizens have not picked up their political pitchforks by now, and stormed 131 West Broad Street. There is hope in 2021 via the father-daughter-duo school board campaign of Minister Clifford Florence and Ms. Clianda Floren-Yarde. GO VOTE!!!
Miquel Powell City Council at-large candidate,"When I heard Van White was running for judge, I definitely thought of his questionable record with the Rochester City School Board. However, I am not a shallow man who would automatically project he wouldn't be an effective judge because of it. Van is a Civil Rights Attorney and would be the first-ever Black man elected as a Monroe County Judge. I haven't chosen whether or not I personally would vote for him myself, but I'm not in the business of throwing Black men, my brothers away easily."
John Rouse with Rocthepeace.org, Rise Up Rochester, Morgan Williams Youth Advocate Program Inc., coordinator of Peace Action Collaborative - formally known as The Taskforce to Reduce Violence and one of the Founding members of AARM Activist Against Racist Movement stated, "I first met Van White while he was working with Bill Johnson's crime prevention. He has also been on the frontline in various activities to reduce violence and restored some type of unity amongst the community especially the Black community. As being an Activist for Peace within our Community I for one see Van White as a much welcome breath of fresh air for the changes that are much needed in Monroe County."