The Education Committee of the SW Common Council

Wednesday, 11/22/23

6-7:30 pm at

For Zoom Link, Contact John Boutet @ jboutet@frontiernet.net

Minutes Posted on: www.locationSW.org/group/sw-education-forum

Video of meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjY4CjKRMKw&t=4s

Attendance:

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

John Curran       REACH, St. Monica’s, WFM, jecurran@rochester.rr.com

Lee Loomis        School #10 Volunteer Tutor, leeloomis46@gmail.com

Mrs. Ogden         Parent Liaison, School #10

Phyllis Moss       19th Ward Ed Chair, drphyllismoss@icloud.com

Eva Thomas         RCSD, School #10 Principal, eva.thomas@rcsdk12.org

Welcome & Introduction

There were no SWCC Ed. Com. meetings in July through October. John B. sent out links to RCPE (Rochester Coalition for Public Education) meeting minutes to our group before the 11/22/23 meeting.. RCPE sent a letter to the Regents of the Blue Ribbon Committee.

In addition to RCPE meeting, John has attended CET meetings at School #19 and School #10. Discussion centered around school closings.

School #10 – Principal Eva Thomas noted that the closings were shocking to School #10 staff; they didn’t see that coming; improvements were happening; new team members have made a difference. They've been closing the achievement gaps and making gains every year. This year we felt we had a solid team to move forward. Old buildings are part of the problem but that was not the issue here. Unable to merge with Montessori; different models. School #10 model encourages students to go out in the community and do research to move toward creating a better world (expeditionary model); Didn’t see it coming; very shocking and traumatic to students, families, staff and stakeholders. Anxiety looming now as middle school principal appointments have been made but not the elementary school principals. Also the issue of families who want to stay with their principals; can’t provide parents with the information they need. Will hopefully know by January.

Expeditionary learning was something the SouthWest community favored and looked forward to. Has worked well in other schools nationwide. Eva and coaches will be attending a national training in Colorado next week to learn more about expeditionary studies. Finally built the right team to do the job and now they’re closing.

Last CPE meeting - some aspects of the school closings and the reshuffling are a concern. Though some of the decisions had merit, some of the decisions were made too quickly and don’t appear to be thought through. Aren’t giving schools a chance to change; questioning if the constant shuffle is to keep parents from being able to organize against the change. Should try to disrupt things as little as possible but the opposite is happening.

John recommended getting together with Dan Drmacich at the next RCPE (Dec 1, 4pm-5:30pm). Try to get more School #10 advocates to attend CPE to talk at the meetings (e.g. Dr. Walter Cooper).

School #10 was not supported by Ricardo Adams who was a very active supporter of School #10 at the time his children attended. Commissioner Patterson and Commissioner Simmons were the only two to vote against the closing. Newer Commissioners are more supportive of School #10 staying open.

John recommended getting connected with Dr. Cecilia Golden who has a long history with RCSD and might be able to provide some direction.

Reconfiguration is also complicated with the new pre-school babies coming in who have been assessed by the Chldren’s Institute to have 36-40% issues with social/emotional issues; entering into pre-school as ASD. See: https://www.wxxinews.org/local-news/2023-11-20/childrens-institute-...pre-k-students . Some of this is a result of COVID lock-down and not being able to build up their social skills with other students. 19th Ward Schools Committee wrote a strong letter to the board about a clause that allows them to waive any policy that went against the reconfiguration plan - this seems to be legally questionable. Dan Drmacich has also written a letter questioning the clause and outlining steps that should be taken to reduce trauma to families during the reconfiguration; both are awaiting a response.

Is there any chance the decision can be reversed? Eva noted that she had been invited to meet with the Superintendent. The meeting took place at 4pm as the Superintendent returned from Albany where the plan had already been presented and then followed by a presentation to the Board. In the summer, the Superintendent did meet with principals to talk about the need to realign the schools based on Dr. Jallow’s recommendations. Realignment was necessary because there were so many empty seats in classrooms and federal funding would be pulled back. Superintendent’s charge was to reconfigure so that we don’t lose federal funding and fill seats. Lost about 2,000 students last year; this year it was 4-5,000.

Some schools still struggling to get certified teachers.

John B mentioned the sudden plan to close the Dr. Walter Cooper Academy at School #10 to move the Montessori School into the 19th Ward in its place reminded him of the last time that happened. It's déjà vu all over again! Last time in 2017 it was one of the School Chiefs who “colluded” with Montessori to try to close School #44 so Montessori could move in. This led to to a major blowout the next School-board meeting.

For background, in 2015 School #44 went into receivership. (See https://youtu.be/GDoKeLX3F8g) John Laing and John Boutet worked on the School #44 CET team, trying to make sure the school could be brought back as a community school similar to what Ralph Spezio had done at School #17 in the 90's. To that end, JL & JB also worked with Commissioner Liz Hallmark's “Managed Choice Policy Task Force” team. The Task Force work we did is documented in 22 of the over 200 education committee videos in our YouTube channel. (See:https://www.youtube.com/@johnc.boutet5505/videos)

*  The Task Force bent over backward to be transparent and welcome all input.

*  The Task Force generally met weekly or by-weekly for seven months of hard work.

*  The team recommended more student enrollment in their local schools.

*  Local enrollment would be encouraged by offering local busing for students.

*  Parents would feel students are being safely bused to their local school.

*  Students attending local schools also means parents could more easily attend school functions.

*  More parent involvement their children's schools strengthens the schools.

*  Attending local schools strengthens a sense of community and make the community safer.

Liz Hallmark presented the Task Force recommendations to the Superintendent and her team. Liz also gave her presentation to the SWCC Education Committee December 28th, 2016 as recorded in https://youtu.be/XJIuRyraeW4. Watch this video.

The Central Office Administration agreed it would study the proposals for about six months then give the School Board three implementation options for how to grow local participation in local community schools.

Freddie Thomas - bringing in Montessori as well as School #10. Changing names to “campus” to reflect more than one school in one building. Community felt decisions were not about the children; they’re about real estate. Feels like the Community meetings are more of a dog and pony show as decisions have already been made.

When Eva reported back to staff, she asked that someone from Central Office report out the plan, as she didn’t have a choice with it. Dr Cooper very angry and disappointed.

Why are so many students leaving the District? More Charter Schools opening up offering what parents say they want. News doesn’t always portray an accurate picture of schools. Data shows that by 2032, we could be down to 14,000 students; 22,000 last year. (Birth rate is low and more options for families to choose where to send their children). Parent have their children stay for Pre-K to 2 or elementary. Parents not happy with Middle and High Schools. Parent Engagement not as robust as it should be.

Parent Involvement - many don’t have options for getting involved; live too far from school. Majority of School #10 students come from outside of the neighborhood; varies as to whether local parents attend more than parents who live far away. Quite a few parents are working. Not all schools let children in early for breakfast. Treating students like family in the care that is given. District has yet to tell parents what the next steps for them are. Parents feel they are being “evicted” in order to bring in a different family.

Great need for community to support school staff. High need to bring parents, school staff and community together to push what the parents and community want for their children.

Current design for reimbursing busing reduces the opportunity for parents to align behind their schools. System scatters children all over the city, which is not in the best interest of the student. Recently, the advocacy resulted in local politicians pushing for a .5 mile short-distance busing design; however, that was not passed. We need to connect with them to review https://youtu.be/XJIuRyraeW4.

Recurring ability for Montessori to insert itself into yet another school via displacement is suspect. John B. recommends touching base with Mary Adams who was active in this issue with School #44.

Something to consider: interesting that RCSD has 10% white students; did not consider closing any of the schools that have white students in them.

Selecting a school in your neighborhood can be totally disrupted by RCSD moving that school to the other side of town.

School #10 - Over 50 fathers showed up for a fathers event. Can’t say that fathers don’t participate. Options given to parents: FaceTime, before school, after school, phone, Zoom; many ways to be engaged and involved. Events held at various times to accommodate the 21st Century parent.

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