SWCC Education Committee Minutes for Wednesday March 26, 2014 Meeting at the Flint Street Community Center

SW Common Council Education Committee

At the Flint Street Community Center

271 Flint Street

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Meeting convened at 6:00 pm.

Participants and Introductions:  John Boutet (19th Ward Resident, SWCC Education Committee Co-Chair, Location19.org manager), Dan Carver (PLEX Resident, per diem teacher in district), Stacie Colaprete (SBANA / Vision Quest / parent of RCSD student), Tom Cole (1st grade teacher, Vision Quest), Jeremy Coleman (19th Ward Resident), John Curran (PLEX C.A.M.P.U.S.), Judith Davis (FR=EE facilitator), Robin Dettman (Education and Business Organization Development Consultant, on Board of Baobab Cultural Center, works w/ JOSANA Safety Net for School 17), Angela Ferris (4th grade teacher, Vision Quest ), Donna Jackel (FR=EE facilitator), John Laing (Chair of 19WCA Schools Committee, School 16 Volunteer), Jennifer Lenio (Librarian in charge of 5 Southern Branches), Chris McCamic (Former aspiring elementary school teacher, In Premed program, Rural Metro Volunteer), Bill Nichthauser (19th Ward Resident, past School #19 volunteer, currently volunteers at School 22, Oboist), Annie Pride (Offer Safe recreation programs to our families in the City of Rochester), Dean Schove (19th Ward parent), Tamara Schove (19th Ward parent, SW YMCA), Chris Shanley (5th grade teacher, Vision Quest), Alison Skvarla (Music Teacher, Vision Quest), Eva Thomas (Principal of School 19)


  1. Introductions - All - 15 min

  2. Vision Quest update - Alison Skvarla, Angela Ferris - 15 min

  3. FR-EE (Facing Race, Embracing Equity) Race & Education focus group - Judith Davis and Donna Jackel, facilitators - 60 min

  4. K-6 vs K-8 discussion - Eva Thomas & All - 15 min - All - 10 min

  5. Discussion of Van White's focus groups recommendations / District’s Action Plan / East High - All - ~30 min

  6. Walk in Items

Introduction Video - http://youtu.be/93Ac5pQTMUI

Vision Quest Update - http://youtu.be/Az7tgN_EI-Y

At the march 26, 2014 meeting of the SWCC Education Committee four teachers and one parent representative from the Vision Quest Community School initiative came to our meeting to update us on the progress of their project. Teacher Alison Skvarla reviewed the presentation she and colleague Vicky Buckley made to the Excellence in Student Achievement committee of the School Board on March 11. The committee is comprised of Malik Evans, Cynthia Elliott, Mary Adams and a parent representative. The presentation was very well received. Malik inquired on the earliest possible timing for starting the Vision Quest school and was pleased with the fall 2015 answer Stacie gave. Stacie said Cynthia Elliot seemed quite excited with this proposal. John Boutet attended the presentation to attest to the community interaction that Vision Quest has participated in. Stacie indicated that one of her preferred sites for the Vision Quest school would be the School 16 building once renovations are made.

Teacher Angela Ferris then informed the group that the presentation they will make to Superintendent Vargas has been scheduled for March 21 at 5:30pm. They stressed that they would like as much support from community representatives as they can get at this meeting.

FR-EE (Facing Race, Embracing Equity) Race & Education focus group - Judith Davis and Donna Jackel, facilitators

FR=EE has had a Race & Education workgroup meeting over the past year to work out a Vision and a Mision Statement which you can check out on their website: http://faceraceroc.org/committees/workgroups/education/

At our workshop on March 26th Judith and Donna presented 3 goals that the Race & Education workgroup had identifies as important and asked our committee to discuss these and make recommendations for either way to enhance or implement these. The goals were:

  1. Every Rochester student will be able to read, write and do math at or above grade level, or to the best of his or her individual potential.
  2. RCSD will increase the number of educators of color, and in partnership with FR=EE's Race and Education Workgroup, develop a comprehensive ongoing professional development process for all RCSD employees.
  3. Authentic opportunities will be created for parents, guardians and caretakers to plarticipate equitably in all major decision making processes at the school and central office levels.

We had a lively discussion that took up the full hour that we had scheduled.  With 5 current teachers, 2 former teachers, a school principal and several parents in the discussion, I came away with the following points:

  • Teachers would very much like to have more parent participation in the schools.

  • While the City population making use of the schools is predominantly minority and poor, the teaching staff is predominantly white and and lives outside the City. Minority teachers and Central Office staff also predominantly live outside the city.

  • Sensitivity training on race and ethnicity issues is insufficient for everyone in the school. The teachers and the principal seemed to agree on this issue. The heavy workload that implementing Common Core may have added to this problem. The elimination of the “half day Wednesday” which included mandatory in-service training has exacerbated this problem as well.

The facilitators took notes and we have received a summary of those notes:   FR=EE Focus_Group_with_SWCC.docAll the FR=EE Workgroups have finished their focus groups and are now working on revising their goals in light of all the input received.  All the workgroups will present their focus group findings to FR=EE on April 24th.  Then, some time in May, FR=EE will hold a summit at which the findings/revised goals will be shared with the public in general.   When Judy Davis receive the flyer for the event, she will post it.

PK-6 vs. PK-8 - School 19 experience - Eva Thomas - http://youtu.be/5wY7gPnDPOg

School 19 currently has Pre-K-8 in the school. The school was one of the first to switch over. The first year was ~4 yrs ago, before Eva came to School 19. The 1st year she was here as principal the 7th and 8th graders were scattered between 2nd and 3rd floors with three 7th and three 8th grade sections. That was too much for the size of the building and the next year she cut back to two sections for each and had them all on her floor so she could keep better control of them as they changed classes. Also she required 7th and 8th grade teachers to accompany their students as they pass between classes. The language and “playfulness” of the 7th and 8th graders is a problem for an elementary school particularly with Pre-K kids in the building.

The age range in Pre-K-8 is also a big problem for busing. Eva has had many parents complain that their young kids are now cursing from what they picked up on the bus. She has asked the bus drivers to make sure the babies are kept in the front of the bus and the big kids in back, and she has revised the positive behavior plan to encourage better behavior in the older kids. Still it is not ideal. The older kids are not the best role models for the Pre-K through 2nd grade students.

School 19 was built as an elementary school building and many things are too small: small cafeteria, little room for lockers for storing materials when moving between classes, water fountain too low, etc.

Eva has heard that Schools 2, 29 and 44 are going to revert to K-6. We also know Sch.10 will stay K-6 and Sch.16 will come back to Post Avenue as K-6. Question was raised as to where the 7th and 8th grade kids will go. East and Freddy Thomas were mentioned as possibilities. John Laing mentioned that number he got from central office indicate there is a 20% inefficiency in teaching in having Pre-K-8 because of the different teaching staffs accreditation required. One problem hindering easily switching back to K-6 is that facility modernization plans which commit money for the change to K-8 have already been submitted to the State.

Parents would very much like to switch 19 back to Pre-K-6 and it would be easier on the older kids also who are being restrained more than is best for their development. They should be allowed to transfer between classes on their own. Another issue is that even if a school like 19 “grows out” its 7th and 8th graders to have the manners and behavior needed to share a building with the little kids, busing may introduce problem students from other schools

Discussion of Van White's Special Committee recommendations /

Superintendent's District Action Plan

John Laing, Robin Dettman and and John Boutet had attended the March 18 special meeting which first reviewed recommendations of the Special Committees set up by Van White, followed by the Superintendents 2014-2018 Action Plan presentation

Special Committee recommendations can be found at: http://www.rcsdk12.org/cms/lib04/NY01001156/Centricity/Domain/20/Recommendations%20of%20Special%20Committees%20030414.pdf

There were four special committees:

  • Student Achievement

  • Student & Community Safety

  • Parent Engagement

  • Concentration of Poverty

At the 3/18 meeting it was hard following the Board Members' discussion because they were referring to a document summary while the PowerPoint above was the one being displayed. The Board favored supporting the student recommendations. It was noted at our meeting that none of this is currently in the budget. Some teachers at the 3/18 meeting noted in private that there were no teachers on the special committees.

The Superintendent presented his action plan: http://www.rcsdk12.org/cms/lib04/NY01001156/Centricity/Domain/8/RCS...

The plan proposes a lot of the right things, but whether they can pull off all the changes remains to be seen. There will be a neighborhood school pilot program which is very good news. They will provide short distance busing to make this possible at one school and replicate it at other schools the following year if it works and the legislative changes pass in Albany for reimbursement. I've heard this pilot will be at School 17.

East High School

There was a lot of discussion about the need for change management to make the needed changes. Robin reviewed briefly the success he had had with change management at reorganizing School 33 when it was on the verge of being closed. The reorganization turned the school around and is is still one of the District's better performing schools. (See the July 2, 2013 Meeting Video : http://youtu.be/dkmRRN4E1o0 ) In the course of the discussion Robin mentioned using the FREEDOM WRITERS METHODOLOGY as a way to reach students who have become frustrated and disengaged from the school system. More details can be found at this LINK. That is the sort of effort that is needed at East High school now. Robin has sent a letter to Dr. Vargas with recommendations.

Letter of Support

At its last meeting the SWCC Education Committee overwhelmingly approved supporting the Superintendent. John Boutet reported that the letter of support had gone out to the Board on March 25th. It is posted on location19 at: Letter of Support for Dr. Vargas from the SWCC Education Committee

Walk in Items

PLEX C.A.M.P.U.S. - John Boutet

Four boarded up houses have been identified in PLEX C.A.M.P.U.S. area: https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zSJ2PZQ-A6dU.kiAYSZvj-BdI One is known to be slated for demolition. Two are behind the Gandhi Institute on the opposite side of Seward Street. They are of interest for possible sites for aquaponics. John Curran indicated a meeting at which PLEX could review these

Book Recommendation

Robin Dettman recommended a book to have in the libraries to Jennifer Lenio: Spirit and Soul the Odyssey of a Black Man in America by Theodor Kirkland. Robin also mentioned his recommended reading list on racism issues which is posted on Location19 at: Recommended reading list on racism issues.

The meeting adjourned at 8:30 pm.

Minutes submitted John Boutet

Past meeting minutes can be found in www.Location19.org in the SW Education Forum located at http://www.location19.org/group/sw-education-forum

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