Here are the meeting notes as a Word file: SWCC Education Committee Minutes 2015-12-16 rev 1.doc

The Education Committee of the SW Common Council

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

6:30 to 8:00 pm

Arnett Branch Library, 310 Arnett Boulevard

Next Meeting: Wednesday,  January 20, 2015, 6:30 pm at the Arnett Library, 310 Arnett Blvd.

Meeting Convened at 6:40 pm


John Boutet         SWCC Education Committee Chair, 19WCA 2nd VP, 328-4271,

Marian Boutet      19th Ward Resident, 328-4271,

Lauren Caruso    19th Ward Resident

John Laing           19WCA School Committee Chair, School 16 Volunteer, 235-5236,

Bill Nichthauser   19th Ward Resident, School 44 Volunteer, 235-0851,

Jennifer Lenio       Rochester Public Libraries (South District), 428-8272,

Candace Rubin     AQE/Metro Justice Education Committee, RCSD Teacher,

Steven Terry         19th Ward Resident

Review of meetings with Dan Lowengard, Interim Superintendent

  • We have attended two meetings with Dan Lowengard, one at School 50 on 11/30 and one at the morning Coffee & Conversation on 12/10 when both Dr Vargas and Mr Lowengard were present.

  • Mr Lowengard has a list 30 things he would like to do while he is here but wanted to review them with the Board before discussing them with us.

  • He did say he would like to flatten the organization structure at Central Office.

  • He favors small neighborhood schools.

  • When asked if he favors K-6 or K-8 schools he said he favors K-8 but his rationale is it keeps the 7&8 (Jr.High) portion of the school small. He is against large Jr. High Schools.

  • He agrees that current State busing reimbursement formula which covers only 1.5 miles or longer rides hurts neighborhood schools.

  • Dan Lowengard would like to have State change formula to also cover shorter distance bus rides.

  • John B mentioned to him we are working with AQE/Metro Justice in hope they will be able to help in Albany to push for short distance busing.

  • Dan is scheduled to be Interim Superintendent from January through June when the School Board is hoping to have located a permanent replacement.

  • Dan was still commuting to Rochester from Syracuse as of our 12/10 discussion. He plans on getting an apartment in Rochester for his 6 month stint.

  • Some people are hoping to talk Dan Lowengard into applying for the permanent job.

  • Another group has started a petition to draft former Interim Superintendent Dr. Bill Cala.

School 10, 16 and 44 Review and Updates

  • Reviewed history of proposed closures of #10, 16, and 44 and our efforts to block those closures.

    • First fought for 16 and got Board to vote to refurbish and reopen School 16 on Post Avenue when it would be ready.

    • Next we fought to keep School 10 on Congress Ave. rather than move it to School 1 in Cobbs Hill area. The board requested the administration study whether School #1, #10 or #44 buildings are most appropriate to close. School #44 which was then a K-8 was chosen for closing because it had the of the least amount of green space. The Board voted in 2013 to close #44 by 2020.

    • Central Office started phasing out #44 in the 2014-15 school year by eliminating Kindergarten and 7&8. This early phase out was preventing many students in the 19th Ward from having access to a seat in a neighborhood school until #16 on Post Avenue is reopened. This permitted Mary Adams to push a resolution through the Board delaying the closing of #44 until School #16 reopens.

  • Reopening of #16 will likely be in 2018 or 2019. This gives us 2 or 3 more years to fight for School 44.

  • Removing 7&8 from #44 actually removed one of the biggest rationales for closing it. For a K-6 school you don't need a new gym and green space is less of an issue. Also having shoved 7&8 into #44 in the Brizard administration likely contributed to the performance drop which was also mentioned in the argument for closing it and which put it into receivership.

  • John Laing, John Boutet and Beverly Usher are on the School #44 CTE (Community Engagement Team) and Beverly is the Vice President of the PTO.

  • Several organizations have volunteered to partner with School 44 to help them out of receivership. This includes AQE/Metro Justice.

  • In discussing Receivership Schools it was mentioned John B produced videos of the School #44, School #3 and School #17 presentations on plans the schools have for improvement.

    Hear are the YouTube Links: 8/4, Sch #44 - ; 8/5, Sch #3 - ; 8/8, Sch #17 - . Links to the videos are also available on Location 19 in the August 19, 2015 SWCC Education Committee Meeting Notes, and in the SW Education Forum discussion post Videos from School 3, 17 and 44 Receivership Hearings. (Remember the L19 search engine can help you find things if you are not sure where to look.)

New Item – John Boutet, John Laing – Study of short-distance busing

A couple of months ago at one of the C&C meetings with Dr. Vargas we had asked to get the cost study the District had done two years earlier in support of their request to Albany for a Short Distance Busing pilot program aimed primarily for School #17. Patty Malgieri provided us with a copy of the report at yesterday's C&C meeting. She directed us to contact Tim Schmandt if we wanted a digital copy of the report.

The report received is a PowerPoint titled Neighborhood Schools Implementation Plan and dated February 2015. It describes the benefits and costs of providing short-distance busing to neighborhood schools vs. the busing we have with the 1.5 mile minimum for reimbursement allowed now. The original report was created to help School #17 return to a neighborhood school enrollment as Ralph Spezio returned to the school as principal. When he led the school to greatness in the '90's he did it by stopping all busing to ensure only neighborhood kids attended. That helped him get parents and the neighborhood involved with the school and helped turn a failing school into a model school in the State. Today a principal can't stop the busing. To provide higher neighborhood student attendance we can only resort to providing busing to all students who want to attend their neighborhood school.

Unfortunately the District and local politicians failed to get needed short distance busing reimbursement legislation passed through the Assembly in Albany. NY Senate bill S5227B which would shorten the minimum reimbursed student busing distance from 1.5 to 0.5 miles passed the NY Senate but was never introduced in the Assembly. Actually for best result we need we need legislation that would reimburse the district for any short distance. The reasons for this was discussed:

  • Parents pick a school their child will attend based on whether they can get busing there and whether it is good.

  • Fear for their child's safety is a big reason for picking busing. Remember that they start by picking a school for their kindergartner. How many block would you want a 5 year old to walk in winter? In rough neighborhood? Crossing busy streets?

  • Most of today's parents never walked to school. They were bused. They are afraid of their streets.

  • One advantage of busing from the parents' standpoint is it allows the parents more time, to get to work. If the child is going to be on the bus for 1 hour before the start of school that gives parents an extra hour to work.

  • Even if the school is a ten minute walk or the parent can drop the child off on their way to work, many schools are not open early to provide shelter, supervision or breakfast facilities at school for early arrivals.

  • To ensure short distance (short time) bus rides are used, the bus pick up time has to be as early as for cross town busing and consequently requires earlier school opening time.

  • There will always be some need for cross-town busing for kids whose families move, but who want to keep their kids in the same school.

Busing Report review:

  • We had not had time to study the report ahead of time so we looked through it together.

  • Shifting to short distance busing reduces the length of the bus routes and the number of buses needed.

  • Projection of pilot program was for busing in Yr 1: PreK-8 (Sch17), Yr 2: add All K-3, Yr 3: add All K-6, Yr 4: All K-6, Yr 5: All K-6

  • Net Annual Proj. Savings - Neighborhood School Implementation: Yr 1: $51,000, Yr 2: $2.2M, Yr 3: $3.9M, Yr 4: $4.3M, Yr 5: $4.3M

  • The short-term busing report has a lot of information with good visuals.

A copy of the report is also posted on Location19 as RCSD: Neighborhood Schools Implementation Plan - February 2015.

We also discussed advantages and disadvantages of using RTS for HS student transportation.

AQE/Metro Justice review – Candice Rubin

They have been addressing updating the code of conduct in the schools and trying to decriminalize the discipline aspect of the code as much as possible. Also the effort aims at reducing the the level of suspension as a form of punishment. The effort also tries to improve the climate of the school by eliminating the use of metal detectors and armed guards in the schools as much as possible. Challenges to metal detectors needs to be balanced with security. Police officers are assigned more and more to schools and are called upon for several reasons, not all of which may be necessary. Their use can lead to criminalization of kids under circumstances where it isn't warranted.

The AQE/Metro Justice group has also been opposing the overuse of high stakes testing which in many cases is harming the students. Many of the tests are not age appropriate and harm the students self image without providing useful feedback to guide the education of the child. The group want to make sure all parents are aware of the right they have to opt their child out of the tests.

The AQE (Alliance for Quality Education) has been working on the Campaign for Fiscal Equity which tries to make sure all schools are getting the money that the State owes them.

On January 12 the AQE/Metro Justice Education Committee from Rochester and across the state are traveling by bus to Albany to lobby the State for equitable funding of the schools. Candice thought this would be a good opportunity for the SWCC Education Committee to also lobby for short distance busing. John Boutet will put information on Location 19 about the trip.

PTO governance – John Boutet

Who exactly is responsible for scheduling PTO's and making sure they take place? Principal? PTO President? We discussed the issues around getting PTO's functioning properly in the schools. Building up reliable participation is needed to have a well functioning and self governing PTO. Finding a time to schedule meeting to attract both teachers and parents is not easy.

Little Free Library(LFL) and Free Books(FB's) update – John Boutet

No LFL's installed yet. We need to talk to Michael Hagelberg to arrange for constructing one or more LFL. John has approximately 30 boxes of books available for a the FB's program. John Laing will take a couple of boxes tonight. Supply of books is no problem and anyone wanting to get them into the hands of children should contact us.

Walk-in items
Lauren Caruso – Q: What is the distinction between SWCC Education Committee vs. 19th Ward Community Association Schools Committee? A: Both have similar goals. SWCC group is involved with the whole SW Quadrant and has been functioning as an information gathering and distribution vehicle to help neighborhoods understand school issues and improve their schools. The 19WCA Schools Committee was set up to have stronger voice in the governance of schools in the 19th Ward Neighborhood. Both organizations have focused thus far on primary grades but have recently been reaching out to Wilson Magnet HS.

Steve Terry mentioned that he was a history major and would enjoy volunteering within that area. John Laing mentioned some opportunities in 6th and 7th grades. Jennifer suggested Wilson for higher grades.

John Boutet – Inquired about the use of Kahn Academy presentations by teachers. Candice has used them for math with mixed results. Kids with short attention spans and/or certain learning disabilities don't do well with them. She thought they can be used to advantage, but selectively.

Meeting adjourned at 8:05pm

Minutes by Marian and John Boutet

SWCC Education Committee Chair, John Boutet, 328-4271,

19thWCA Schools Committee Chair, John Laing, 235-5236,

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