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Feedback 7/3 

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Give RCSD time for Aquino's work to take root

The Rochester Board of Education is working to address issues highlighted by Distinguished Educator Jaime Aquino, but Mayor Warren's proposal for state takeover of the district is designed to pull the rug out from under it. Aquino's report cites high leadership turnover as a factor in the district's shortcomings; Warren's suggestion exacerbates that as the board works to make changes.

On June 6, the board released a refined action plan. A new superintendent began leading the district on July 1. State Assembly member Harry Bronson has drafted legislation in response to Aquino's suggestions, which Warren has derided as "No solution at all. It's more of the same." County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo echoed her comments.

Warren claims that Bronson's proposed legislation "take[s] away the ability of all city parents to decide the future of their children's education," but it is unclear how stripping power from the elected board avoids this pitfall.

Aquino's recommendations include "ensur[ing] that the board has a clear understanding of its role as a governing body," increasing accountability, and enhancing professional development. In its latest iteration, the board's action plan outlines an approach to resolve each of these issues.

Central to the board's document is a strategic plan to be implemented across the district, in direct response to Aquino's report. Each board resolution will identify alignment with the plan, including the budget. The board "will hold quarterly meetings to review metrics that track progress on our strategic plan" in an effort to increase accountability and make better use of data, another shortcoming cited by Aquino.

Reacting to Aquino's recommendation to "implement a system of induction for new commissioners," a comprehensive board handbook will clarify roles and contain a checklist of training areas for new members. Mentors are to be assigned to new members, and quarterly self-assessments will evaluate the board and superintendent's shared understanding of roles.

Bronson's legislation, released in draft form on June 13, also addresses these areas. The draft bill includes "clearly delineating the powers and duties of the board of education and the superintendent," further training for board members, and developing "a long-term strategic academic improvement plan [that] would include a set of goals with appropriate benchmarks and measurable objectives" to effectively enhance accountability.

In light of these attempts to tackle deficiencies named in Aquino's report head-on, Warren's suggestion of state takeover is irresponsible. It creates uncertainty for an incoming superintendent and debases the board's efforts to respond to these issues.

Before casting aside the work done since Aquino's appointment last July, the district must implement his suggestions and evaluate the effects of his intervention. To do otherwise is to build on shaky ground.

GREGORY LEBENS-HIGGINS, ROCHESTER

Jazz Fest chatter

I attended several of the free shows at the Jazz Fest on Wednesday evening: Herb Smith's trio at the Squeezer Stage, which was great; the three outdoor events, which were all very good; and the Prime Time Brass concert in the big tent.

Troubling about this one concert was the number of people talking throughout the performance. It was disrespectful to the performers and those of us who came to hear the music.

What was different about this indoor concert from the Herb Smith concert? I think too many tables, giving the people the impression that conversation is OK. I believe the festival organizers need to rethink the Big Tent seating arrangements for coming years. And please, people, be more respectful!

LAWRENCE HERKO, ROCHESTER

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