The Education Committee of the SW Common Council

Wednesday, 12/23/20

6-7:30 pm at

 Here are the meeting notes as a .pdf file:  SWCC Education Committee Minutes 2020-12-23.pdf

A video of the meeting is at: https://youtu.be/5poHUOnNy90

Attendance:

Lila Alshehri            From Saudi Arabia Student at Nazareth, lalsheh0@mail.naz.edu

Don Bartalo           Rochester Coalition for Public Education/RASE, dbartalo@rochester.rr.com

John Boutet            SWCC Education Committee Chair, 328-4271, jboutet@frontiernet.net

Eleanor Coleman   Rotary SW, CFC YouthBuild, 224-5119, eleanor.coleman@gmail.com

John Laing            19WCA Schools Committee & Sch #16 Volunteer, 235-5236, jlaing1@rochester.rr.com

Avril Little             19thWard Resident/Villa of Hope, avrilglittle@gmail.com

Stella Wang           19Ward Resident/UR, 355-8568, stella.wang@rochester.edu

Background: On December 17 at the SW Common Council meeting we had two members present from the Corn Hill neighborhood and Evangelina Johnson, Community School Coordinator, from School #3. The discussion of the COVID impact, remote learning and school busing issues led us to decide to focus the December 23rd SWCC Education Committee meeting discussion on busing. The following note was sent out to the committee along with the Zoom invitation:


Whether you can join us or not please take a few minutes to read, reflect and suggest on ways to eliminate the 1.5 mile minimum busing distance requirement the state imposes on the District. To qualify for busing cost reimbursement the student's bus ride must be 1.5 miles or more. Parents can only be guaranteed busing for their child if the school they pick is 1.5 miles from their home. Many parents pick a distant school for the sense of safety busing their child gives them. The SWCC Education Committee has been fighting this fight for over 8 years. As we fight for effective community schools here are some points to consider about crosstown busing to share your thoughts on:

    • Crosstown busing is doing damage to our community by:

      • Limiting the choice parents have to pick local schools for their child to be bused to

      • Picking a crosstown school makes it hard for most poor parents to get to their child's school

      • This is keeping parents from interacting with their children's teachers and participating in school activities

      • This reduced parent involvement hurts the school

      • It also damages the building of neighborhood strength:

        • Friendships made in school don't extend back into the neighborhood.

        • Students have less connection with their neighborhood.

        • People in the neighborhood value the school less since kids from the neighborhood don't go there.

      • Crosstown busing hurts attendance since students can't walk if they miss the bus

    • Most kids take the bus anyways and busing them across town costs more than local busing.

    • Long bus rides waste the students time and needlessly exposes them to stress and fatigue.

    • Neighborhoods end up with more bus traffic on their streets because kids get bused all over.

    • The damage this crosstown busing is doing is only tolerated because it hurts the mostly black and brown community.

      • It hurts the school performance, pushes schools to privatization, charter schools

      • Weakening schools reduces the cohesiveness and strength of neighborhoods

So, what should we do to eliminate this problem? COVID has disrupted the status-quo. This is a chance for change as we rebuild our schools after COVID. The Black Lives Mater and heightened awareness of racism in our society we have seen in 2020 has heightened our desire for positive changes. The change in administration in Washington may give us a chance to change our schools to better support minorities. Please give us your ideas!

Email input from Lentory Johnson: 12/23/2020, 8:18 AM

I know that the problems cited in the beginning of this email are all the issues that have affected our neighborhoods , especially urban community schools and I am of the opinion that this has happened by design , as so many undertakings by local , state and federal government that give growth and strengthen systemic racism. The furtherance of this system has become a stranglehold on minority communities and the poor .I never thought being a boomer that the words would come from me , but I believe that "fair and equal " school systems are the pathway to rebirthing of a strong educational opportunity that will allow city residents and children to have what will be needed to create a healthy educational and social environment for our children . Neighborhood schools and alternative supports must be factored as so many things in this community have become "DESSERTS'' . I would love to hear our thoughts on this important discussion however the show that I host "Street Voices" ends at at 6:00 p.m. , but I will try to listen this evening . Thank you for the chance to share my humble opinion about this matter, the children matter .

Email input from Mary Coffey: 12/24/2020, 5:38 PM

We all agree that Black Lives Matter, however, the quality of life for Black lives should also matter. The quality of life of our many Black citizens in the City of Rochester, who live in generational poverty just as their parents did and if things stay the same their children will, also is not good. There has to be equal economic opportunity for our Black citizens to rise out of poverty, to control their own lives, to live in safe neighborhoods and buy a home wherever they wish.

Good schools and good jobs achieve economic equality. Our citizens should have good schools and good jobs like those in our suburbs. Unfortunately, we have one of the worse educational systems in NYS (813th of 823 New York districts) and one of the worse in the United States. There are also very few good jobs for our Black communities. The Drug World has taken control of some of our neighborhoods and takes advantage of the poverty. Many live on Government controlled poverty called Social Services, and given the minimum while some even live in substandard housing. A lot of federal money comes to Rochester because of its poverty level and there are numerous non-profits but nothing changes.

We must all stand up together for equal economic opportunities for all by fighting for good schools and good jobs for all. They divide us by calling “racism”, insinuating whites hate and blacks are hatred. There are those who are not good people but to say all are Racists is scandalous and divisive ! Could it be government causing this who is in control and not doing what they should do? This is truly a moral issue.

Hopefully, we can all work together to change things for the better.

Mary

This was well said by Nelson Mandela:

Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”

Chat Post by Stella Wang at start of meeting: I emailed and asked a student for input—Simon Bristow, a senior in political science—regarding our crosstown busing discussion this evening. To begin advocating solutions or strategies, it seems that we need some hard data. The following is built off Simon’s email:

1. What evidence do we have about the problems that crosstown busing has caused?

2. What are these problems? Who have determined that they are problems?

Crosstown schooling impedes parental interactions with the school and hurts student learning

Crosstown schooling weakens community bonding as students cannot interact with neighborhood friends while at school and cannot build relationship with classmates when back home.

But, MORE FUNDAMENTALLY, how are kids doing in their schools across the town? How do they feel about their education? What, if any, seem to impede their learning? Do they prefer to attend neighborhood schools? How do their parents view it? Do they feel that their kids will be better off if attending neighborhood schools?

What do the neighborhood schools have to say about not having neighborhood kids in their schools? What do they have to offer to neighborhood learners? What are these schools that want more neighborhood kids in their schools?

Will it be possible/advisable to collaborate with students, parents, and neighborhood schools to collect data and explore, if ultimately helpful, alternatives to cross-town busing?

Busing

  • No State reimbursement for students who live within 1.5 miles of the school; this does not work well for inner city neighborhoods with safety issues.

  • Can’t build neighborhood relationships among families when children are bused to so many different schools from one neighborhood.

  • Suggestion: Meet with the Mayor again. Last meeting did not seem to elicit support from the City in changing busing regulations. Mayor under the impression there were “discretionary funds” the school could use to address local busing.

  • Need to create a survey that produces the hard evidence and data needed to have a more persuasive, community-driven argument for the impact of busing on neighborhood schools; interview people directly impacted by crosstown busing. What do parents want? Must have data. Stella will help organize this.

  • Check in with School #16 - Are there families that have benefited from the neighborhood model? Collect data. Possibly School #19 also. Are parents more involved? Does truancy go down. Ask questions about school performance.

  • Special Education is also an issue; does the school provide the needed services.

  • PINS students assigned a school but no “buy-in” or partnership with the school to support the child. Needs to be a relationship between student/teacher & school staff/administration.

  • Ralph Spezio, as principal of School #17 several years ago, stopped all the busing at that school to create a neighborhood school and saw a significant increase in parent participation. This changed when Spezio left to address the high incidence of lead poisoning among his special education students who were not increasing testing scores. Current principal, Caterina Leone-Mannino is reviving #17 as a community school more neighborhood-school oriented with local busing.

  • If buses go by the homes located within the 1.5 mile limit, couldn’t they still pick up students who live near the school but have safety concerns and deliver them to the target school? (Yes they do that where they can. Problem is the District can't guarantee busing prior to registration and planning the bus routes for 1.5 mi students.)

  • What is the connection between busing and the quality of school education? If a cross-town bused student misses the bus to school, it is too far for them to walk. They miss a day of school. The quality of the student's education is diminished because of interruption.

  • Survey Content: Why did you pick the school you are in? Did it work out? Focus on how parents make the decision. Maybe focus on School #16 and School #19 where the principals are very active and strong proponents of neighborhood schools.

  • Some of the schools have an feature/unique offering (School #58) that makes them attractive. Get students’ perspective and parents’ perspective.

  • Suggestion to sit down with current School #17 principal to get information on struggles of pushing for community-school status and is also highlighted by the Mayor as a good model.

  • Need data on how many students are bused and how many live in the neighborhood. What is the data in a school and how does it compare to other schools? There is data; most schools have students coming from many areas.

Note: There have been many busing studies and presentations done over time. Many references to such information can be found in our documentation on www.Location19.org. Note that at the top right of the of the pages on that site there is a search field. If you search for “1.5 mile busing”, it returns 4 pages with 10 entries each of posts that contain those words.

  1. A good one to start with is Save $, Improve Neighborhoods . In there is a reference to School Bus Cost Impact Study FIN.pdf you should look at. Also scroll down and look at the 1.5 mile circle around around School 16. The state reimburses only for students coming from outside that circle going to #16!

  2. Also check Topic 'Survey of 19th Ward residents regarding the future of School... . Kathy King did a number of surveys.

  3. SW Rochester School Feeder Patterns is worth a looks to see what feeder patterns look like.

  4. UPDATE: SWCC Minutes 4/16/15 gives you a NYS bill number S5227B of interest.

  5. Superintendent Linda Cimusz Testimony Before The New York Senate Fi... Shows the effort Lynda Cimusz made. Note the report at the bottom of the page from 2015: RCSD: Neighborhood Schools Implementation Plan - February 2015

  6. Much of our documentation has been in the form of videos and you can find the listing of those done for Liz Hallmark's 2016 Managed School Choice Task Force Info.

That is just searching on the “1.5 mile busing” term and picking a few results.

Also check out:

  1. Managed Choice Policy Task Force and check my first Reply which lists Ralph Spezio's interesting report: Alignment of Accountability_Urban Schools_ updated 7_7_12.doc . In my second Reply I explain how to find Managed Choice Task Force meeting materials on Board Docs.

  2. Rochester's School Choice Policy review.

  3. SWCC Education Committee Minutes 2016-12-28 features Liz Hallmark's presentation of the final Managed Choice Policy Task Force recommendations. These notes are transcribed by Eleanor Coleman from the video https://youtu.be/XJIuRyraeW4 when Liz made her presentation to our Education Committee.

I should point out most of the above reports are documented in the SW Education Forum group (https://location19.org/group/sw-education-forum) in over 260 Discussions and 116 Comment Wall entries. To easily find meeting minutes use the index pages such as SWCC Education Committee Minutes Index, or 19WCA Schools Committee Minutes Index .

Updates

CFC Youth Build - starting a new class 1/11/21; orientations are held at 121 Lincoln on Wednesdays at 12 noon. Contact person is Reg Walton at (585) 766-7344.

Rotary SouthWest

  • Had a very successful SouthWest Quadrant & Rochester trivia game via Kahooty. Planning to do more.

  • Hosting a wine auction in February. Looking for neighborhood donations for a “SouthWest Basket” - registration to participate will be uplinked early this week.

  • Adopted a portion of the canal from GVP tennis courts to Scottsville Rd; responsible for clean-up and reporting repair needs, etc. Finished last event on Saturday and will pick up in the spring.

  • Partner with Breaking the Bubble - community education targeting UR students and connecting them with community members over community issues. Next session will be 2/22.

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