Ms. Quinn Thomas:
Although I would not use the word "stricter" to describe this particular effort, we (the RCSD) are trying to do a better job at ensuring that there are a variety of different learning environments for our families and students to choose from.
By way of example, the Board of Education, spearheaded the changes underway at East High School. Now, under the management of the University of Rochester, that once very large school has been broken up into a "upper" and "lower" house.
Additionally, to ensure that the environment is supportive and nuturing, every student at East is assigned to a "family" - allowing them to meet regularly with a caring adult.
Ultimately, Ms. Quinn Thomas, what matters most in the creation, operation, and selection of any school is that whatever structure or approach is decided upon, there needs to be systems in place that facilitate positive and productive relationships between capable and caring adults and their students.
Unfortunately, our District has not always offered our parents the best choices in this regard. If the Board decides to adopt the Special Committee's recommendations and create an military academy, this would be just one of a variety of "learning enviroments" from which parents could choose.
Gotta Say It:
My original post is not a "lengthy policy statement". Rather it is, in fact, an exact quote from the LAW. Regrettably, that law has not been followed - which, I believe, accounts for the decades of failure and poor district outcomes.
Unfortunately, and contrary to the clear legal mandates I've cited, many (including yourself) have come to erroneously believe that legally and strategically it is best if just one person leads our City Schools. *
Decades of failure suggests that that approach is not working for us. In fact, folks who continue to think this way will, as Einstein once observed, continue to reap the same sad and disappointing academic results.
Furthermore, it saddens me that you have such a cynical view of a concept that, quite frankly, underlies the very foundations of our government - "WE the people".
Needless to say, I do not share your views, as I vervently believe that everyone can be and must be a leader (in their homes, schools, and neighborhoods) if we are to be successful in our efforts to transform our schools and community.
Van Henri White
*BTW I do not seek to be that "one" person or leader. For, in my mind, the results and outcomes would be no different. Instead our approach to dealing with our significant challenges must be collaborative and community based. That is why, as President, most of my recommendations for Board action, come from broad community based advisory committees.
Gotta Say It:
Section 2503 of New York State's Education Law defines and states what a board's role is - including the responsibility for establishing and maintaining "schools and classes as such board shall deem necessary...."
Additionally, I thought I'd provide you other portions of Section 2503 for your consideration and review. That section states quite clearly that the Board of Education:
3. Shall have in all respects the superintendence, management and control of the educational affairs of the district...
4. a. Shall establish and maintain such free elementary schools, high schools, training schools, vocational and industrial schools, technical schools, night schools, part-time schools, vacation schools, schools for
adults, schools for physically or mentally handicapped or delinquent children or such other schools or classes as such board shall deem necessary to meet the needs and demands of the city...
c. Shall authorize the general courses of study which shall be given in the schools and shall approve the content of such courses before they become operative.
5. Shall create, abolish, maintain and consolidate such positions, divisions, boards or bureaus as, in its judgment, may be necessary for the proper and efficient administration of its work; shall appoint properly qualified persons to fill such positions, including a
superintendent of schools, such associate, assistant and other superintendents, directors, supervisors, principals, teachers, lecturers, special instructors, medical inspectors, nurses, claims auditors, attendance officers, secretaries, clerks, custodians, janitors
and other employees and other persons or experts in educational, social or recreational work or in the business management or direction of its affairs as said board shall determine necessary for the efficient
management of the schools and other educational, social, recreational and business activities; and shall determine their duties except as otherwise provided herein.
In addition to the above referenced statute, I firmly believe that if we continue to pin our success on one leader, many of our children will continue to fail. Every one of us is a leader and is called upon to use our creative energies, ideas, and experiences to turn this District around.
Please read the article carefully. The portion which you referenced (the board is looking for a person of color) is NOT a quote from me. I'm not certain why the reporter reached that conclusion but it certainly is not based on something that I have ever said to him. As for the Board, as you know we recently selected Dan Lowengard (who happens to be Caucasian) for interim superintendent. Ultimately, when we come close to picking our next superintendent, I intend on voting for the best person for the job - without regard to the color of his/her skin. In this way (as Dr. King would say) we will not be selecting the successful candidate based on the color of their skin but rather for the content of their character.
Van Henri White
Gotta Say It
I'm curious, you don't consider our effort at East "radically different"? Our District has never had an EPO before and to be brutally frank, in the past, most school transformations have been planned and put together in less then three months time. Many of those efforts have failed or fizzled out. Planning alone for the East High/UofR effort took more than a year before implementation. Additionally, if you are interested I can send you a copy of the Union contract/agreement for teachers at East. I think you will see that it is "radically different"from the contract which the rest of the teachers in RCSD operate under. Finally, we are looking to develop an elementary EPO model from which we can establish and replicate best practices for the rest of our District.
BTW a number of Board members are looking at the pilot school approach as well.
Van Henri White
I would encourage you to come to one of our Board meetings or contact me by email (email@example.com) so that we could discuss your concerns person to person without the anonimity that posting encourages. If we met what I would say to you is that the facts simply do not support your allegation that: (I) we have a "revolving door" and (II) it is the "meddling" BOE that is pushing superintedents out that door. In this regard, I'd like to make a couple of observations. First, our Superintendents stay longer than most urban Superintendents - eg both Janey and Rivera stayed for 6+ years. (It would not be fair to include William Cala as he was brought on as an interim.) This is double the time period for most urban superintedents. Second, prior to Dr. Vargas, our last two permanent superintedents left not because the Board "pushed them out the door" but because they received offers of other employment that would be hard for any committed public servant to refuse. It is undisputed that Manny Rivera left for a prestigious and influential post with former NY Govenor Spitzer and Jean Claude Brizzard left to work in one of the largest school districts in our nation - a district in which he would (I) hold the same post which the current Secretary of Education (Arne Duncan) held and (II) work for a new Chicago mayor who was (as The White House Chief of Staff) at the right hand to the President of the United States. While I was among several Board members who wanted Mr. Brizard to stay, under the circumstances, who could blame him for leaving. Sure Jean Claude had challenges with some
members of the Board and with others in our community but given the challenges in urban America what urban superintendent does not have such challenges? In short, who would dispute that (without regard to those challenges in Rochester) that Chicago Public Schools represented an opportunity of a life time for Mr. Brizard. Accordingly, this "narrative" that we hear that the Board of Education is pushing these superintedents out the door is simply not factually accurate. Indeed, such a characterization is most inaccurate to describe the circumstances surrounding Dr. Vargas' exit. For one, it was the Board of Education that granted him a 4 year contract - most superintedents only have 3 year contracts. Secondly, the Board of Education made it clear to Dr. Vargas that we wanted him to complete the academic year and complete his 4 year contract and stay until June 30, 2016. To his credit, Dr. Vargas has repeatedly admitted that it was his idea to leave early in December as he believed that this what was best for the District. Given his position in the organizational structure of our district and his familiarity with District staff (particularly at Central Office) we accepted his assessment and that is why we will be looking at Dr. Vargas "outside the door" on December 31, 2015. He alone choose that date. However, remaining inside that door, with "us" will be thousands of committed employees, parents, partners, the Board of Education, and an interim superintedent who is committed to cause of excellence and equity in urban education. These are the folks, who choose not to "exit", that will offer the creativity and continuity that our students, family, and staff need and deserve.
Van Henri White
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