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Feedback 3/27 

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Locust Club: 'PAB proposal isn't warranted'

In response to the March 13 Feedback letter by Ted Forsyth of the Police Accountability Board Alliance: The Rochester Police Locust Club again finds itself in the position of having to correct misinformation and unsubstantiated false claims. Mr. Forsyth remains consistent in his belief that the best way to attain change is to create a dire false image, since what exists would not warrant the change he seeks in a reasonable or rational person.

Five elected officers of the union did meet with Ted and Barbara Lacker-Ware of the Alliance, and a later meeting also included Iman Abid from the NYCLU. What is not correct was our response to their study. We first categorically told them that the accounts of police citizen interactions and the data in their study was false and inaccurate. We then told them where there is a need for change. We also told them that legislating changes in police discipline in the drastically outlined manner outlined in their study was not warranted and would not improve police community relations in Rochester.

Our words were not welcome, and they were only interested in having us negotiate with them a "disciplinary matrix." As described in Ted's own written account, the union did not offer any kind of substantive or nuanced response to their proposal. In short, they were not interested in working on real solutions or criticisms of their study.

There are two distinct points: 1) It is correct that we did not offer changes to their proposed legislation, and 2) Their proposal was putting the cart before the horse and would not lead to any kind of success.

Forsyth goes on to paint an image that the union has simply sat back and has not addressed police oversight at all. Not agreeing with his opinion is not failing to do anything. The union has been consistent with our response to the call for oversight. There is a need for change in the current process of responding to complaints of force in police actions. And to say this has not been an ongoing problem, discussion, and call for action by the union shows the lack of information and insight by Mr. Forsyth and others as well.

The refusal to hear or accept anything other than an oversight model that has origins from other parts of the country is not addressing the problems specific to Rochester, nor will it accomplish what is needed here.

The PAB Alliance simply wants everyone to believe that every incident of force by a Rochester police officer is misconduct and brutality. When you have an administration of the police department that has not adequately addressed videos of police encounters and City Hall officials who demand an immediate answer to a video without allowing the process to go through its investigative review, then quite simply, no review process of any kind is going to suffice!

Before we dismantle our process – which currently has better statistics than models suggested in the independent study – and replace it with a process that will increase city budget by over a million dollars and will be tied up in legal battles for months if not years, why not take the time first to assiduously work on what goals we wish to accomplish?

Otherwise we are just creating solutions in search of a problem.

We are asking for a Blue Ribbon Panel to identify what the problems are, what will correct them, and how best to implement change. That will ensure that every voice in the community is truly heard.

MIKE MAZZEO

Mazzeo is president of the Rochester police officers' union, the Rochester Police Locust Club.

RCSD: focus on early learning

Regarding Mayor Lovely Warren's criticism of the Rochester school district: It troubles me that so many people describe the Rochester schools as a broken system. Usually they mean the system of governance. I look at the system of public education differently.

As an education leader, I concentrate on learning: the real "system" in a school district. The first place to look is in grades K-3. For example, in 2017, only 10 percent of all Rochester third graders were proficient readers and writers.

The community needs to direct its attention to early learning, especially early literacy learning. The amount of reading, writing, and speaking increases dramatically from fourth grade on. Disadvantaged children need K-3 teachers and administrators who are experts at developing the conditions for literacy learning.

Administrators and master teachers in every elementary school need to be immersed in the content and context of early literacy development, trained by a team of literacy specialists. K-3 teachers must provide a supportive classroom and school environment for all students to succeed. Everyone in the school must encourage students and their parents to reach for the highest expectations.

Teachers and administrators need many opportunities to practice new skills and learning together, and they should receive feedback continuously.

The learning system in grades K-3 needs attention. Distinguished Educator, Dr. Aquino, zeroed in on this need when he reported:

"The bright spots include Rochester's achievement of having one of the highest performing Pre-K systems in the United States. Early last year, 61% of the exiting Universal Pre-kindergarten students were ready for kindergarten as determined by the High Scope's Child Observation Record. Despite having an exemplary Pre-K system, the vast majority of this year's third graders are not reading at grade level."

"Almost 90% of the student population in grades 3-8 require academic intervention services," Aquino reported, "apparently due to a weak Tier 1 instructional program."

A weak Tier 1 instructional program means that even children deemed "ready to learn" will not develop the necessary literacy strategies and skills to become independent learners.

The goal has to be that competent primary teachers know how to use the methods and approaches that are the most effective in achieving literacy success in grades K-3. Children who can read, write, think, and speak are on their way to achieving the success we want for all children.

DONALD BRIAN BARTALO

Bartalo is a literacy specialist, a former teacher, and a former administrator in the Brockport, Hilton, and Dansville school districts.

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