AN OPEN LETTER TO COMMISSIONER VAN WHITE REGARDING THE CHANGE-INITIATIVE, WHICH HE SPEAR-HEADED
March 5, 2014
Dear Commissioner White,
You may or may not be aware of the fact that, at times, I have been among City Newspaper Reporter Tim Macaluso's biggest critics. However, I believe in giving credit --- where credit is due. With regard to this news story, Mr. Macaluso GOT IT RIGHT.
First, he asked (via his news story Headline) the most critical question involving the change-initiative, which you spearheaded, i.e., "What now?"
He is also correct regarding his observations that:
- "the work the committees earnestly undertook deserves a better presentation to the broader community."
- "though the turnout was strong, many of the people were familiar faces. It's a shame that a broader segment of the community isn't tuning in."
Of course, that which Mr. Macaluso described as your "intentional focus on soliciting input from the community" makes complete sense, especially considering (as you and I agreed --- prior to this effort being launched) that unless and until substantial numbers of Rochester City School District (RCSD) parents and other community members get involved constantly, consistently, cooperatively, and collaboratively regarding well-organized, focused, ongoing efforts, which must revolve around, clear, concrete, agreed-upon, measurable, goals, strategies and tactics --- widespread, fundamental, permanent, systemic, change, and improvement within the RCSD --- (other than the ineffective, tinkering around the edges variety, which we have witnessed for decades) is not likely, and in fact, is highly unlikely to occur.
I must admit that it is quite disappointing to see statements such as the following attributed to you: "And the strategies for improving city schools, he says, are not the board’s promise to keep – it’s the community’s." Upon serious thought and reflection, you would have to admit that the latter quote is very shallow, unrealistic, and in fact mainly rhetorical. This is not a time for shallow rhetoric. Again, Mr.. Macaluso is absolutely correct regarding his assertion that "the kinds of changes being discussed can’t happen in a vacuum." As initiator of this effort, and one who has promised that this process will be different than many, many similar processes (in the past) --- you still have a role to play. You cannot just brush your hands off, and take a position that you've done your part. It is your responsibility to see this through until the end, and to continue with facilitating necessary steps to ensure that "the community" is not attempting to operate (without necessary support) "in a vacuum."
Also, with regard to the Board --- this is not about some type of abstract "promise." That is to say --- "strategies for improving city schools" IS ABSOLUTELY THE ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITY OF THE BOARD. With regard to the long-overdue, desperate need for widespread, fundamental change and improvement within the RCSD --- It is vitally important for us not to get caught up in hype and rhetoric --- and begin to confuse and/or distort the roles and responsibilities of various, key players.
It is also potentially problematic that, as is frequently the case in Rochester, you seem to be using the terms, "the community," in a very light, non-specific manner. Again, as Mr. Macaluso accurately pointed out, not only have we not seen widespread community involvement on the part of many-thousands of RCSD parents and tax-paying community members in general, but I'm certain that in thousands of cases --- there is not even awareness of the initiative's existence. So, there is clearly much more work to be done, and again, it would be unprincipled and disingenuous for you to back away from your leadership role at this particular point and time.
I'm not sure if you are aware of the fact that many within "the community" are already expressing beliefs that the entire initiative is, in the exact words of one city resident a "pressure-relieving, politically-inspired, publicity stunt" --- designed to give the impression that (as President of the Board) you attempted to help facilitate change, but "the community" did not support you. I must say, if you back away from the effort at this particular point and time, in my humble, but staunch view --- it would be nearly impossible to credibly and convincingly refute the above referenced belief, held by many.
I believe it is important to remind you that during last night's Town Hall Meeting, you told participants that the meeting represents "the beginning of a movement." It is also very important to note that two Town hall meetings are not (in and of themselves a movement, nor necessarily the "beginning of a movement"). A movement is literally, as noted above, constant, consistent, cooperative, and collaborative, well-organized, focused, ongoing efforts on the part of substantial numbers of people (in this particular case --- parents, students, educators, activists, Board members, other politicians, and anyone else who is serious about WORKING to produce widespread, fundamental, permanent, systemic, change, and improvement within the RCSD), which must necessarily revolve around clear, concrete, agreed-upon, measurable, goals, strategies and tactics. So indeed the critical question is "what now" or what's next. As you know this question was raised during the meeting last night, and your response was that the comprehensive "power-point presentation," which contains all of the recommendations put forward by the four Ad-Hoc Committees will be presented to the full Board for consideration during a public meeting. However, you were not prepared last night to say when the public meeting will take place.This information is needed as soon as possible --- in order to insure that there is adequate time to inform and help mobilize people to be present. In fact, just as you assumed an instrumental role in helping to turn people out for last night's Town Hall Meeting, it is, in my view, your responsibility to do the same regarding the upcoming meeting with the full Board. You see, this is an example of constant, consistent, cooperative, and collaborative, well-organized, focused, ongoing efforts. Still, it is not enough.
In the process of building any sustained, successful movement, throughout history --- a strategy-group or body has been a prerequisite. The latter point is still true today --- that is, if we are truly serious about building / sustaining a movement. As I see it, you are best positioned, and in fact responsible for helping to insure the existence of an ongoing strategy group. This is not a complex idea. It's a matter of you calling for establishment of a strategy group, and providing similar support as was provided for the Ad-Hoc Committees. The strategy group would be the body that would assume much of the responsibility for being able to clearly answer the critically important question: "What now" or what's next --- as it relates to helping convince / persuade a majority of Board members and the Superintendent that the recommendations are in fact vitally important, and worthy of support / adoption. I'm sure you remember that we agreed (upfront) that convincing / persuasion would be a necessary factor in this process. In my view, those who would serve as members of the strategy group should also be willing to help insure additional involvement and / or buy-in on the part of thousands within "the community" who have not been involved up to this point, and whom (in many cases) are not even aware of the initiative's existence. I believe that EVERYONE who served on the Ad-Hoc Committees, and possibly others, should be offered an opportunity to serve as members of the strategy-group.
With regard to my thoughts above, I'm quite certain that none of this comes as a surprise to you --- since I made it clear (during our January 3, 2014 phone conversation --- when you first contacted me regarding your invitation to serve on one of the Ad-Hoc Committees) that I was not interested in being part of events (without follow up). I explained my unequivocal belief that there will not be any fundamental change and/or significant improvement in the RCSD unless and until we build a mass-based movement --- as described above. You agreed. So, I still believe exactly what I explained during our conversation on January 3rd, and what I have been saying for decades (literally). I also believe that, as President of the Rochester Board of Education, and initiator of the above referenced actions, which you characterized at last night's meeting --- as "the start of a movement" --- you have a responsibility and obligation to continue demonstrating the type of leadership that you demonstrated in the process of initiating your change-initiative, and specifically, I am respectfully calling on you to move with all deliberate speed to establish, and to support, a strategy-group --- as outlined above.
Lastly, I agree with Mr. Macaluso wholeheartedly that "it would be a shame to see this effort wasted and wind up as another of our seasonal talks about city schools."
Due to the fact that the historical-clock is ticking very quickly, and the time is very late --- I am impatiently awaiting your response.
The Struggle Continues...
Thanks for the Wimpys Burger tip!
Hi J -- there had been a location in East Rochester, but now Mac's is in Fairport (and Canandaigua).
Fairport?? I thought it was East Rochester
And if the minimum wage had kept up with productivity (a good definition of "wealth creation") then the minimum wage would be at $22 hour at this point.
Meanwhile, the ratio of (American) CEO salaries to average worker salaries, 1980: 44:1; 1990: 91:1; today, somewhere in the 200 - 300 to 1 ratio.
We can easily go back to the dawn of the industrial revolution (a little over 200 years), when wealth creation took off although mostly for management and owners: "The unions" gave us, you know, the weekend, the end of child labor, the minimum wage, paid vacation (for workers), the 40 hour work week, workers safety and a bunch of other things that we "couldn't afford." People were killed to get us those things - in our time. Funny what the wealthiest country in history can and cannot afford. And the secret to America's post war success, 1945 - 73? A well-paid work force.
@Tim: No, none of us was around at the dawn of humankind, but it's no mystery what the living standards were. As you may have heard, it was all nasty, brutish, and short. (Inequality, by the way, was way beyond anything we can imagine now, based as it was on survival of the fittest.)
It wasn't labor unions that lifted humankind out of its wretched condition. A billion years of union activism would never have accomplished that, because unions don't create wealth.
We can fret and whine all we want over slicing the pie, but it's neither here nor there unless the pie consistently grows faster than the population. Human advancement comes from economic growth and development, not from politics and resentment.
It's pretty funny that this week in Rochester, of all weeks, there would be union bashing on these pages - this, the week it was announced the outgoing CEO of Excellus Blues received a nearly $13 million compensation and the CFO receive nearly $11 million as well. (Ever wonder why America spends twice as much as the other Western nations on health care, and we're stuck at #36 in quality?) Here is a classic example of modern American management. We have hundreds of other examples, easily, including some biggies here in Rochester. If we have ever needed more unions, it's right now. The problem isn't a well paid work force, for cryin' out loud, the problem is colossal greed and narcissism of modern American business management.
Courtney Act was in Australian Idol as Courtney, not as Shane... she didn't come second either! lol
Kamakazee: We've added a link to a previous story that has the recommendations. Good call.
What were some recommendations?
"Addicts seek relief, not a high"
Thank you Gary R. Scialdone, for putting this so concisely and pointing out the sheer ignorance of the general public in this area. I too, am appalled that Rochester is still so provincial. We'll get NO WHERE if we don't start showing compassion for those who suffer. Why anyone would believe people CHOOSE to live in the throes of addiction is beyond me. Please… Maybe withdrawing that third helping of Ben and Jerry's Double-Dip Judgment-O-Grim-Delight will open the jammed door of your minds. The compulsive/addictive over-eaters in this town never cease to amaze. It’s one of the worst areas of the USA for obese, judgmental, controlling, codependents in DESPERATE need of treatment. Let the three fingers point right back at you. Preferably from your bathroom scales.
"Poverty is hardly 'man-made', but rather is the natural condition of humankind."
B.D.G, where did you find this pearl of wisdom? You were hanging out at the dawn of humankind and have the privilege of reporting this back to us?
Crows, squirrels, and trees have a "natural condition". Humans do not. Humans create the conditions they live in. Humans create the conditions that make a few wealthy and many more poor. Bruce Popper reminds us that humans, working together in unions, have have changed their conditions and reduced inequality. We must strengthen and continue this struggle.
Unfounded statements, like the one B.D.G has made, are only distractions.
Want some empirical evidence of declining union density and increasing inequality? Check out this article:
Hmmm...they sound accessible. Will people in wheelchairs be allowed to use them as many sidewalks are unusable?
The authoress states that "the Constitution doesn't give us the right to impose our religious beliefs on other people." This isn't exactly false, inasmuch the Constitution doesn't really have anything to do with relations between private individuals, one way or the other.
However, it is more accurate to say that the Constitution explicitly forbids a transient political majority from imposing its values and beliefs on the rest of us. Yet that is PRECISELY what Obama and Sibelius seek to do. And it is precisely what happens when the state willfully and knowingly violates the conscience rights of a small business owner.
On balance, this column presents a strong argument for strictly limiting the power and reach of government. Let us hope it portends a welcome change in editorial direction!
Yum, Macs is the best. Touch on a westside delicacy next. Wimpys Burger basket.
Why should the government have the power to fine or throw in jail:
• A vegetarian graphic artist who refuses to produce posters for a butcher shop?
• A banquet hall proprietor who won't book a Boy Scout function because he dislikes Scout policies?
• A hotel manager who refuses to host a conference of climate change deniers?
• A pizzeria owner who won't deliver to a union-busting law firm?
• A photographer who turns away fur-wearing clients?
• An accountant who won't service a business that exploits people with gambling addictions?
• A contractor who turns down a remodeling job for a tobacco shop?
• A caterer who won't take part in a function if alcohol is present?
• A mechanic who refuses to help out operators of fracking equipment?
• A commercial landlord who refuses to lease to a business that sells tobacco products?
• A bodega owner who refuses to provide customers with a certain periodical because it contains superstitious material like horoscopes? (Oops!)
From a WXXI news story in September 2012: “The Rochester City School District ranks among the top 10 in the nation when it comes to per pupil spending for large school districts. That’s according to Govistics - a web-based product of the Center for Governmental Research. The data shows Rochester spends nearly $20,984 per student…Rochester City School District Superintendent Bolgen Vargas calls the report inaccurate. He says the district spends roughly $17,000 per student.” Oh, it's only $17,000 per student.
For that kind of money those student should be getting college degrees! Will throwing more money at the RCSD make it do a better job educating students? Maybe we should try spending $30,000 or $40,000 per student per year and see it that helps.
"The objects of the discrimination are lesser beings, not worthy of service – or protection."
Like the bakery in NM that was forced to sell a wedding cake to a gay wedding against the owners's religious beliefs, or be forced out of business? I wonder why they aren't worthy of protection.
Thanks for bringing the error to our attention. We've corrected the article.
1. Kress started in 2009, not 1999.
2. She has no right to discourage kids from earning degrees in liberal arts, especially finance, because she has bachelor's degrees in English and finance and a master's degree in English, which is one of the less employable degrees out there. Plus a Ph.D. in higher education administration, which is another example of degree inflation.
Website powered by Foundation