Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Black ministers to speak out against city schools

Posted By on Tue, Aug 20, 2013 at 1:46 PM

Updated August 21, 2013 at 9:50 a.m.

Superintendent Vargas understood the ministers' request for a meeting concerned an employee matter, and he cannot legally discuss such issues, according to Chip Partner, the district's spokesperson.

With regards to concerns about the school day scheduling changes, Partner says that parents in some schools were notified well in advance of the scheduling changes. But the state just approved the plans for the schedule changes in another group of schools only days ago. The notification of those changes was included in the district's calendar it mails to parents. The calendar is for the 2013-2014 school year and provides parents with information about events, activities, and important contact information.

The Baptist Ministers Alliance and Rochester Ministers At Large say they are angry over the city school district's plans to extend the school day at some schools. They say that the plans weren't properly explained to parents.“[The district has] a knack for making decisions on behalf of our children that the parents don’t even know anything about,” says the Rev. Willie Harvey, a spokesperson for the ministers. 

The ministers will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. on Thursday, August 22, at Peace Baptist Church, 6 Oregon Street, to discuss their grievances. The two organizations represent about 40 Rochester-area African-American churches and their congregations.

The main concern parents have is how they will schedule their work and child care, Harvey says. Parents weren’t notified about the scheduling changes, he says, and how it will impact their days. Many are working-poor parents who can’t easily step away from their jobs. And some have transportation concerns, too.

Schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas has made expanded days a major component of his strategy to turn around failing city schools. This fall, 20 city schools will have some form of a longer school day to give students more time for core subjects and extracurricular activities.

Harvey says that the ministers have been trying to meet with Vargas, but haven't been able to schedule a meeting. 

Vargas was reached by phone earlier today.

“We’ve been talking about this for more than a year,” he said. “I don’t know what [the ministers]could be referring to.”

Vargas said he has not seen the ministers' press release.

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