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School reform doesn't require a new system

Ralph Spezio's essay suggesting that we create a new, formal process to make schools more community friendly had the right emotion and philosophy behind it, but it sounds desperate, and desperation is never a good foundation for change ("A Better Model for Neighborhood Schools," Guest Commentary). More important, the community-governed schools he talked about can become real tomorrow, and we don't need to recreate the process to do this.

The Rochester school district has the power and expertise to improve schools. Central Office and the school board need to be stirred. If someone found taking on Central Office to be overwhelming, they could get teachers and administrators to articulate a New School Unit. This policy already exists but few have explored it. Finally, a group could pursue a charter school by pulling the trigger law. Parents can take over any school they want to if they vote to do this. The point is that methods for transforming city schools into ones that are more successful, genuine, and community governed already exist. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.

There always will be intense opposition from Central Office to any idea that threatens their status. Why would anyone being paid $100,000 or more to tell people what to do be in favor of creating an alternative based on shared governance? The RCSD employs hundreds of administrators who are in the system for life. Many of them do not work in the trenches and have no desire to jump into the dirty work that must happen if schools are really going to get better.

Spezio was right. The solutions need to start with those behind the school and living-room walls. Administrators dropping reforms from the sky will only make things worse, but creating a new system is not necessary. What needs to happen is public outcry. RCSD parents need to start threatening to pull the charter trigger. Only then will the Central Office gods listen.
Bliss is the founder and former CEO of the Urban Choice Charter School.

Unanswered questions for the RPO

As ardent supporters of the RPO, my wife and I left the recent annual meeting disappointed. We had hoped that despite the obvious rift between RPO leadership and Maestro Remmereit, the packed forum, full with supporters, could have served to light a new flame of hope, instead of fanning further discord.

Everyone on all sides, those pro-Arild and those against, agrees that the programming Maestro Remmereit introduced to our community was innovative, dynamic, and brought out the best in the musicians. And for that, Maestro Remmereit deserves some public credit from the RPO, which unfortunately to date he has not received. The RPO board's decision to go in a different direction, based in large part on findings outlined in the Craviso report, was entirely within their prerogative, and board chair Elizabeth Rice articulated this point quite clearly.

Not as clear however, was whether the specific recommendations for the RPO board have been implemented. If they have been, it should have been reported, as it will eliminate the confusion around roles and responsibilities that contributed to the current situation. If the recommendations have not been implemented in their entirety, they should be. Until we learn from and correct our mistakes, we will be destined to suffer yet again, bringing to mind something George Eliot said: "It is never too late to become what you might have been."


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