Van Henri White 
Member since Oct 24, 2012

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Re: “For Rochester school board: Elliott, LeBron, White

One of the arguments made above is that the only reason why the graduation fell to 39% in 2006 (the year before I became a member of the Board of Education) was "due to newly impose standards". That argument is simply not correct as it is based on facts and dates that which, quite frankly, are wrong.

The "newly imposed standards" (which included phasing out of the local diploma and requiring that students pass an ever increasing number of Regents examinations) did not affect any graduation class until the students who graduated in 2009. That year, 2009 graduates (for the first time) had to pass two Regents examinations in order to get their diplomas.

Every year after that, R.C.S.D. graduates have had to pass an ever increasing number of Regents examinations in order to graduate - i.e. in 2010 they needed three; 2011 they needed four; in 2012 they needed to pass a total of five Regents examinations in order to graduate. Indeed, by 2012 the local diploma cease to exist as it had been completely phased out.

So the bottom line is that the year BEFORE I got onto the School Board, the graduation rate for our District had fallen to 39%. As is clear from time frame laid out above, the "newly imposed standards" had absolutely nothing to do with that very low graduation rate because the 2006 graduates were allowed to cross the stage without passing a single Regents exam!

Therefore, while I cannot explain why the graduation rate had gotten so low BEFORE I got on the Board of Education, we do know that it had absolutely nothing to do with the "newly imposed standards" (as suggested in the earlier post) as the new requirements that students pass rigorous Regents examinations would not take affect for another three years (2009) AFTER I got on the Board.*

Ironically, beginning in 2009 (not 2006), this would have an impact on our ability to increase the graduation rates because the local diploma was no longer available as an option for city scholars. Notwithstanding that fact, we have worked diligently through those changing standards. And despite those shifting standards (which again were implemented AFTER I got in the Board of Education) we've seen steady increases in our graduation rate.

Certainly, no one is claiming "mission accomplished" simply because of the 10% increase in our graduation rate. MUCH MORE work lies ahead of us. However, the improvements that we've seen thus far should not be cavalierly dismissed or explained away by an inaccurate chronology of events. Instead, the steady increase in R.C.S.D.'s graduation rate (from 2007 to 2016) should be acknowledge and recognized for what it represents - i.e. the collective manifestation of years of hard work by thousands of students, families, and staff members to overcome obstacles and sometime arbitrary and changing standards and to get across the stage and move on with their lives. No matter what we think of individual Board members or candidates, we should all acknowledge this type of progress.

*The following year the State of New York also changed the standards for passing the E.L.A. and Math tests. In 2010, the New York State Department of Education changed the "cut score" ( i.e. the percentage that is required for a passing score on E.L.A. and math scores). As a result, that year the number of R.C.S.D. scholars passing those state-mandated test went down abruptly and significantly. Personally, I think "raising the bar" for our children was a good thing. But the manner in which the State Department of Education did it (e.g. after the children had already taken the test that year and not phasing it in) was, in my opinion, a mistake and unfair to our scholars and our staff.

5 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Van Henri White on 08/21/2017 at 7:22 PM

Re: “White still pursuing military school

Gotta Say It.

Not sure if you realized it but it took more than a year for our collaboration with this region's largest employer (U of R) to officially begin at East High School. There were times where some, like yourself, said what the Board of Education was attempting to do with the U of R at East "will never happen". But they were wrong. Others had the "faith" which you claim is lacking.

They had faith, not in me, but in a thoroughly vetted and sound idea that was led (not by one person) but many. A community of people. Thankfully, because of that faith, we are seeing signs that East (which at the time was the largest and worst performing high school in our District) is finally turning the corner.

The other thing you are wrong about is that you assume that I am supporting this proposal because "it shows some attempt to promote change." "Gotta Say It" (whoever you are) you obviously do not know who I am. That's simply not how I do things. There have been multiple studies and multiple survey's which show that this community would welcome such a school. So it would appear that many others do not share your view that type of school is "not needed".

Perhaps their view points are based on the numerous examples of military academies (NOT charters but regular traditional public military academies run by regular school districts just like ours) across this country where cohorts (made up of demographics VERY similar to ours) graduate at a rate of 90 % + each and every year.

So no... this is not for "show". This proposal is very real and should be consider seriously if for no other reason than our District only graduates 50% of our students on time. This is a shameful fact and it requires the serious and thoughtful consideration of every idea that can have an impact on our students lives in an immediate as well as in an incremental way.

Finally, Gotta Have It, whatever your true identity, you seem to have developed a jaded view of politicians. That's truly unfortunate and sad. But here's the thing - I have never looked at myself as a politician. Rather I consider myself to be a public servant. And while we might not always agree on everything, I feel safe in saying that my colleagues on the BOE look at themselves as public servants as well.

It is a distinction (politician vs. public servant) worth understanding. Politicians focus on "the show". Public servants focus on evidence of success. I am confident that after we have gathered all the facts and data, our BOE will decide what is best for our students rather than what is best for adults. I don't know what their decision will be but I do know this... The decision will not be about the show but rather it will be about success.


Van Henri White

7 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Van Henri White on 12/29/2016 at 8:54 AM

Re: “Report finds support for military school

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.

Van White

14 likes, 9 dislikes
Posted by Van Henri White on 04/27/2016 at 4:27 AM

Re: “Van White: Proposed military academy is part of innovative approach the RCSD needs

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.

9 likes, 8 dislikes
Posted by Van Henri White on 01/09/2016 at 2:10 PM

Re: “Van White: Proposed military academy is part of innovative approach the RCSD needs

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.


Van White

7 likes, 13 dislikes
Posted by Van Henri White on 01/09/2016 at 8:12 AM

Re: “Rochester school board seeks a foot soldier


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

6 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Van Henri White on 12/09/2015 at 5:24 AM

Re: “Vargas out: Impossible job claims another superintendent

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.

2 likes, 14 dislikes
Posted by Van Henri White on 10/30/2015 at 12:14 AM

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